Google Resists Total Information Awareness

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Google has refused to comply with a US government subpoena for information about how people use its search engine, opening one of the first legal battles over whether law enforcement agencies should have access to the increasingly far-reaching data held by search engine companies.

The legal tussle could also raise questions in internet users' minds over whether information about their personal searches on websites like Google's could be seized by the government, Google has warned.

The company argues that the government could obtain the information from other public sources and that acceding to the request "would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its service".

The DoJ says it needs data from Google to prove that filtering software is not effective in protecting minors from pornographic websites.

Google argues in correspondence filed in a California court that the DoJ's request for information, issued in August, 2005, was "overbroad, unduly burdensome" and "vague".

"Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches. We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously," Nicole Wong, associate general counsel, said.

The DoJ said in a filing this week that the court should compel Google to comply with the subpoena, in part because some of Google's competitors had already co-operated with the request, and because the government was not seeking any information that would reveal the identity of the website's users.